In their examination of party-voter linkages in twelve Latin American democracies, Kitschelt et al. (2010) find evidence of programmatic political competition in only two countries: Chile and Uruguay. However, while my own analysis of party-voter linkages in contemporary Latin America confirms the presence of programmatic political competition in Chile and Uruguay, it also reveals that programmatic party-voter linkages are stronger in El Salvador – one of the region’s poorest countries, and a country with scant democratic history – than they are in either Chile or Uruguay. The fact that El Salvador contradicts the standard “sociological” model of party system development, which identifies both a long democratic history and a relatively high level of socioeconomic development as prerequisites for the development of programmatic political competition, is the primary empirical puzzle that motivates this dissertation. In response to the question of why programmatic political competition emerges in some countries but not in others, I argue that elite political agency, rather than the political and socioeconomic characteristics associated with the sociological model of party system development, determines the type of party-voter linkages that form in a given party system. More specifically, I contend that the presence of a unified Left that has achieved electoral success by actively promoting its ideological distinctiveness is the common link that explains the development of programmatic political competition in Chile, Uruguay, and El Salvador. To support this argument, I combine the analysis of cross-country public opinion surveys with case studies that detail party system development in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Particularly instructive is the comparison between El Salvador, where programmatic party-voter linkages are much stronger than the standard sociological model would predict, and Costa Rica, where a relatively high level of socioeconomic development and a long democratic history have failed to generate programmatic political competition. Whereas my examination of the development of the Salvadoran party system demonstrates that the FMLN has played a crucial role in the development of programmatic political competition, my examination of party-voter linkages in Costa Rica shows how the weakness and disorganization of the Costa Rican Left has inhibited the development of programmatic political competition.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2015. Major: Political Science. Advisor: David Samuels. 1 computer file (PDF); xiv, 341 pages.
Programmatic Political Competition in Latin America: Recognizing the Role Played by Political Parties in Determining the Nature of Party-Voter Linkages.
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